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More States Mandate Use Of Licensed Public Adjusters For Insurance Claims

Originally published by Jeff Raizner.

The insurance industry is thankfully continuing to experience a growing trend toward the use of licensed professionals, such as public adjusters and/or lawyers, throughout the claims process for policyholders. The movement was spurred by the questionable operating practices of unlicensed claims operators. This year alone, state legislatures in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and other states passed bills to limit the circumstances under which anyone but a licensed public adjuster can negotiate property damage claims on behalf of a policyholder.

Licensed Public Adjusters Help Consumers

“I think the goal is to eliminate the bad actors that practice public adjusting, either licensed or unlicensed,” National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) President Jeff O’Connor said. By requiring public adjusters to be licensed and registered, states put policyholders in the hands of reputable businesses instead of transient and fraudulent operations. Many scammers are out there just waiting to cheat responsible insurance policyholders out of their money, some via the unauthorized practice of public adjusting (UPPA), a serious problem that harms insurance consumers.

While insurance carriers try to make noise about licensed adjusters inflating claims, the reality is it is in the insurer’s best interest to keep the market flush with imposters as it keeps their own costs down. With disreputable providers working the claims market, insurance companies pay out less often and thus save money while their insured suffer the aftereffects of fraud. Licensed public adjusters are better equipped to estimate the costs related to property loss than the average consumer, and therefore better able to provide insurance companies with an accurate assessment of the claim.

The insurer’s desire to protect their bottom line stands in stark conflict with society’s interest in keeping its consumers, including policyholders, safe. The friction between insurance carriers and public adjusters shouldn’t exist if both want what’s best for those who pay their insurance premiums. Those on the side of the insurers claim to want to protect policyholders. The carriers’ advocates allege the insured will actually lose money on valid damage claims if they hire public adjusters because they inflate claims to increase their fees, which are generally a percentage of the amount the insurer pays.

Insurance Claims Lawyers

The insurance recovery lawyers at Raizner Law have extensive experience working with clients who have been underpaid, paid late, or wrongfully denied by their insurance companies. We have succeeded in recovering what our clients were entitled to under their policies, so let us help you too. To discuss your situation with our team of trusted experts, contact Raizner Law today for a free consultation.

The post More States Mandate Use Of Licensed Public Adjusters For Insurance Claims appeared first on Raizner Slania LLP.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Jeff Raizner
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Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce?

Originally published by stark.

Stepparents play a very important role in a child’s life. According to the most recent report from The Step Family Foundation, over 50 percent of U.S. families are recoupled. As blended families are becoming more and more common, this raises an important question: Do stepparents have any custody or visitation rights to their stepchildren after a divorce? The answer: “sometimes”—but those rights are limited and they are not automatic. Here, our Dallas child custody attorneys provide an overview of the key things that you need to know about step-parent rights after a divorce.

Texas Law: Step-Parents are ‘Interested Third Parties’

 Stepparents are not granted any automatic child custody or child visitation rights. Unlike a child’s biological parents, there is no assumption of parental rights. Instead, state law views stepparents as being “interested third parties.” Practically speaking, this means that a stepparent’s custody or visitation rights are similar to a child’s aunt, uncle, or another semi-close relative.

To be clear, stepparents have the right to petition for visitation with their stepchildren after a divorce. While it is often difficult to get court-ordered visitation rights over the objections of the child’s parent(s), it is legally possible. Should a dispute arise over step-parent visitation/custody, Texas courts will resolve issues under the state’s ‘best interests of the child’ standard (Texas Family Code § 153.002).

 How Our Child Custody Attorneys Can Help

 Stepparent custody and visitation cases are especially complicated. At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, we have the unique skills, experience, and training needed to help guide parents and stepparents through the legal process. With more than 100,000 attorneys practicing in Texas, there is no other law firm that has as many Top 100 Super Lawyers as we do. When you reach out to our firm, you will get a top-rated Texas child custody lawyer who will:

Conduct a confidential, in-depth review of your stepparent custody/visitation case; Listen to your story, answer your questions, and devise a sensible strategy; Look for mutually agreeable solutions that resolve conflict at the lowest possible level; and Take whatever legal action is necessary to protect your rights and your family.

We know that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions in family law—especially when children are involved. Our custody & visitation lawyers provide each and every parent with the fully personalized legal assistance that they deserve. Our goal is to help you find an effective and low conflict resolution that works for you and your family. At the same time, we are trial-tested family law litigators. Our lawyers are always prepared to take aggressive action to protect your parental rights.

 Discuss Your Case with Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers Today

At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, our compassionate Texas child custody lawyers are experienced, effective advocates for parents. If you have any questions about stepparent rights, we can help. To schedule a strictly confidential initial consultation, please call us at (214) 273-2400 or contact us directly online. From our offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Frisco, we represent parents throughout North Texas.

The post Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce? appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: stark
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Millennial Clients Are Forcing Attorneys to Rethink Their Marketing Approach

Originally published by Texas Lawyer.

 

For law firms, targeting the millennial demographic may be the key to reaching a much broader client base as a whole, but it may also require attorneys to rethink the way they use technology and market themselves online.
      

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Texas Lawyer
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Appointment of Temporary Guardian Not Immediately Appealable

Originally published by 1p21.admin.

In probate and guardianship cases, the parties can appeal most court orders immediately. But what about the appointment of a temporary guardian? If you do not agree with the appointment, can you immediately appeal the probate court’s decision? The court… Read More

The post Appointment of Temporary Guardian Not Immediately Appealable appeared first on Houston Probate Attorneys: Kreig Mitchell LLC.

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The post Appointment of Temporary Guardian Not Immediately Appealable appeared first on Kreig Mitchell LLC – Attorneys at Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: 1p21.admin
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‘Bull’ Shows the Perils of Confirmation Bias

Originally published by Kacy Miller.

Did CBS hire a new team of writers for “Bull” this season? I hate to jinx anything, but the S4 episodes have actually had quasi-plausible storylines. What is happening?

I don’t know, but I can tell you what is not happening: jury consulting. Or not much of it, at least. And I have to admit, the lack of jury consulting absurdities is making my job as a columnist more challenging. But who doesn’t like a challenge?

This week we’re introduced to a billionaire businesswoman named Rachel Thomas and her husband, Peter, as they drink wine – and argue – on their boat. Rachel muses that she’d like nothing more than to “bash him over the head with the fire extinguisher.” Ah, marriage.

Murder defendant Rachel Thomas sits alongside Dr. Jason Bull in an episode of "Bull"

Courtesy of CBS

When Rachel wakes up the next morning, we learn she cannot find her husband. She ventures out to the boat and discovers a missing fire extinguisher, blood on the side of the boat, and no sign of Peter.

A few hours later, we observe Rachel, Dr. Bull and Benny Colón around the conference table in her office. She had already called the police, had already been questioned, and a forensics team was gathering evidence as they were talking. Rachel has yet to be arrested, charged or even indicted. Points for being proactive, I suppose.

Benny, as usual, is reluctant to take the case, but Bull goes all-in on a belief that Rachel is too methodical and careful to be so reckless and sloppy. She is ultimately charged with second-degree murder of her husband, and because it’s Hollywood, she goes to trial a week later.

Actual Jury Consulting!

There are about three seconds of script where Bull does anything resembling typical jury consulting:

1st second:
Bull opines that jurors who let their emotions get the better of them will not have a hard time believing that Rachel killed her husband. When Benny and Bull “accepted” a juror who would go the mat fighting for a cab, I can’t help but think they just sat the very juror they thought would find their client guilty. Can’t say I would have made that same recommendation. 2nd second:
Bull has an honest conversation with Rachel about her emotions, or lack thereof. He expresses concern that she doesn’t look sad, shocked or the least bit upset that the man she claims she didn’t kill was taken from her just days ago. He encourages her to muster up some feeling so jurors will think she gives a damn. This is true to form because we jury consultants are often talking to witnesses and/or clients about the disconnect between their message and their body language. 3rd second:
After closing arguments, Bull tells Rachel he’s made it “a policy not to speculate about verdicts before juries actually announce them…”. Of course, Bull went on to break his own policy, but that’s beside the point. The policy is a great one I try to follow. In fact, I rarely stick around during deliberations unless the client requests it. Everyone tries to read the tea leaves, but a jury is rarely if ever a homogeneous group of folks who all think alike. A jury is (typically) comprised of 12 unique individuals who bring their own world views, experiences, expectations and perceptions into the deliberation room. Juries will do the best they can with the tools they are given. Sometimes, we think they get it right, sometimes we don’t.

Avoiding Confirmation Bias

Normally, I provide y’all with a play-by-play of the episode, but this week I’m going to skip all of that and jump to one scene worth talking about. It’s a bit of a spoiler, so SPOILER ALERT.

Toward the very end of the trial, Bull, et al. discovers a piece of evidence that gives everyone hopes of an acquittal. And for once, the evidence isn’t discovered by a team of Trial Analysis Corporation sleuths. It’s actually discovered in plain sight in the evidence locker — why the trial team waited until the end of trial to examine this stuff is beyond me, but at least they finally got it done They found a seemingly inconsequential “bag inside an evidence bag” with traces of lime, lipstick, an eyelash and sputum. Rachel’s sputum.

Benny puts on their forensic expert who was personable, likeable and credible. During direct, Benny asks why none of the prior witnesses talked about the “bag inside a bag.” The witness testifies,

I can’t answer that, but it appears that even though the bag was submitted for lab testing, nobody drilled down on the results because a plastic produce bag didn’t figure into the narrative that police had come up with.

This answer is pure gold from a jury-level because it raises questions about the thoroughness of the police investigation and whether the prosecution put the proverbial cart before the horse.

At its core, this is really about confirmation bias, the tendency to search for and interpret data that is consistent with what we already believe to be true (or likely true), and to reject or ignore data that challenges what we feel to be true. We see this during every election cycle, but confirmation bias is alive and well in the world of litigation, too.

We’re all susceptible to confirmation bias: judges, juries, experts and even attorneys. It can come into play when crafting RFPs, developing case strategy, preparing key witnesses or even choosing whether to strike a particular juror. If these decisions are made based on what we want to be true, without fully evaluating evidence or facts to the contrary, confirmation bias can skew the process of preparing for trial – and prove to be a fatal error.

In this episode of “Bull,” confirmation bias prevented investigators from seeing evidence that led to Rachel’s eventual acquittal on the murder charge. Turns out, her husband had tried to kill her by suffocating her with a produce bag, and she killed him in self-defense, only she didn’t remember any of it because she has early-onset Alzheimer’s, something she had kept secret lest it doom her career.

The show’s writers may be veering away from giving me much to chew on, jury consulting-wise, but I’ll take it if all the episodes are as good as this one.

 

This article was originally published by Texas Lawyer on October 30, 2019. Reprinted with permission. © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

The post ‘Bull’ Shows the Perils of Confirmation Bias appeared first on CourtroomLogic.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Kacy Miller
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Marlene Dougherty

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Marlene Dougherty is a solo practitioner in Brownsville.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
In 2001, I had to take a medical leave for a year and a half, and when I returned to practice, I took my first pro bono case assisting a probate judge with his client’s bankruptcy filings in Connecticut.

I also attended a CLE put on by the Connecticut Bar Association on farm workers’ rights, which led me to study immigration law. Prior to that I had only experienced immigration law from a law enforcement perspective, e.g., assignment to assist in locating undocumented workers who had fled from a worksite raid.

In 2003, on a personal level, a waitress, who served me lunch several times a week and managed the restaurant in her employer’s absence, eventually shared her immigration history and the abuse she experienced by her employer. I encouraged her to report it, but she would not.

Later that year, I relocated to South Texas in search of a warmer climate—I sure found it—and a place where I could begin the practice of immigration law. Brownsville seemed ideal as it was close to the federal district court and two immigration courts. I soon learned what it meant to practice in an area where the poverty level is one of the highest in the U.S. Because my Spanish skills were deficient, I did not apply for a position with a nonprofit as all required fluency in Spanish—my vocabulary was limited to about five words. When I opened my practice, I paid my assistant to translate for me, taking twice as long to gather even the basic facts. Later, I was surprised to learn that even some local nonprofit agencies charged more than I did for services—low bono has been my model from the outset.

My first pro bono cases were through CLINIC, a Catholic Legal Immigration Network, for cases needing legal representation at the Board of Immigration Appeals. Later, I stopped accepting pro bono through organizations as the majority of my clients were impoverished and I tended to their immigration needs.

From 2008 to 2012, I served on the American Immigration Lawyers’ Consumer Protection and Authorized Practice of Law Committee. I took on the duty for the committee to revise draft legislation for the protection of immigrants, seeking an expansion to protective statutes and criminal penalties for the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Most recently, I submitted a proposal for the revision of immigration jurisdictional statues to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s office—seeking an independent immigration court separate from the U.S. Department of Justice..

Immigration law is not simply filing forms. Knowledge of the correct law to apply to the facts of a case takes a certain legal skill. The ever-changing policies of the various immigration agencies and the federal circuit courts of appeals’ interpretations, which apply to each circuit’s jurisdiction, makes immigration appellate work particularly mind-boggling.

Why is pro bono important to you?
In my practice, I have found that many undocumented immigrants are repeatedly exploited by people in the community who want low-cost employees, unauthorized practitioners who line their pockets by advancing false hopes, and unscrupulous or negligent attorneys. My practice has evolved to reviewing complex factual and legal issues in these types of cases.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono is extremely rewarding. Should you be a new attorney considering doing pro bono work, I encourage you to do so. However, I also encourage you to do so in a manner that will enable you to become financially successful. Be sure that you plan according to your lifestyle goals.

Success takes many forms; I hope that you find yours.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: August Zimmerman

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

August Zimmerman is a 3L at Texas Tech University School of Law and a native of Katy. He is director of communications for the Board of Barristers, justice of Phi Alpha Delta – Sam Rayburn Chapter, and student mediator for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic. Zimmerman hopes to practice with the U.S. Marines, but if he doesn’t attain that goal, he will probably go into plaintiff representation for personal injury claims.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I am starting my third year as a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because it provides an opportunity for me to use my education and experience to give back to the community. This allows me to use my time to give something back that can have a positive impact on someone else’s life.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
My pro bono work has taught me that every opportunity spent volunteering matters. It doesn’t matter if someone can only volunteer once a week or once a year. Any time spent on pro bono work is something that someone might not receive if that person did not volunteer.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
What I would say to fellow students is that, even in law school, you do have time and lawyers are in a position to be community leaders and set trends. Start now. Be an example and help your community. It may not seem like you have the time to do much but every bit helps.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My favorite success story is the transformation of one of my CASA children. When I first met him, he was quiet and withdrawn. He had similar problems in his placement and at school. When he spoke, it was barely more than a whisper and very few words. Over our time together, he became more comfortable and talked to me more and more. We did things like play basketball together and he told me about what he wanted to be when he grew up, his hobbies, types of music he liked, and more.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Free disaster legal hotline available for people affected by tornadoes, severe storms

The State Bar of Texas reminds residents that free civil legal resources are available to low-income individuals and families struggling to recover from the tornadoes and severe storms that affected 16 Texas counties on October 20.

The State Bar of Texas toll-free legal hotline — 800-504-7030 — connects callers with legal aid providers in their area who can help with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer protection matters such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. The hotline can assist callers in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who can provide free, limited civil legal help.

Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on October 21 for the following counties: Cass, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Erath, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Panola, Rains, Rockwall, Rusk, Tarrant, Van Zandt, and Wood.

Read the full release here.

Original author: Amy Starnes
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Leslie Alvarez

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Leslie Alvarez is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law and is originally from the Rio Grande Valley. She is very involved with the pro bono program at St. Mary’s and is the vice president of the Public Interest Law Section. Alvarez is working as a student attorney this semester at the St. Mary’s University Consumer Protection Civil Justice Clinic. She plans on practicing disability rights law. Alvarez is also currently working on her master’s degree in public administration.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been a doing pro bono since my 1L year. I am most involved with the free legal services clinics St. Mary’s provides for the community. I am the student volunteer coordinator for the Wills Clinic, Special Education Clinic, Psychiatric Advanced Directives Clinic, and Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I came to law school to pursue my passion for service. Pro bono is a constant reminder that my work is valuable and needed.

What have you learned from doing pro bono work?
Through pro bono I have learned that there is strength in numbers. Every pro bono event consists of several law students, pro bono attorneys, and other community partners. It is amazing to see a group of very different people come together to address the needs of our underrepresented community members.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
For someone who is doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell them that the people they will meet at these events will make their experience worthwhile.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories occurred at our Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic. This clinic serves adults with disabilities and their families in an effort to increase self-determination and independence. This is accomplished by counseling families on their alternatives to guardianship over the adult with a disability; a guardianship takes away an adult’s fundamental rights. In this particular story, we helped an adult with a disability keep their rights by setting them up with a supported decision-making agreement, through which the adult would keep their right to make decisions but would have help from their parents in making decisions. This specific client was very passionate about voting and was ecstatic that they were going to keep their right to vote. That same morning, the client was also registered to vote. For that one client, the clinic served as a life changing moment and it was incredible to be a part of that.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Taylor McConnell

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Taylor McConnell is a clerk for the Hon. Christine A. Nowak, of the Eastern District of Texas. He is a recent graduate of Baylor Law School. At Baylor, McConnell was an officer for the Baylor Military and Veterans Legal Society and the Leadership Engagement and Development, or L.E.A.D., counsel. When his clerkship ends, McConnell is unsure what area of law he wants to pursue but will continue his dedication to helping others.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I tried to do as much pro bono work as I could throughout my 2L and 3L years. I worked monthly at the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, represented juveniles at initial detention hearings, and drafted wills for veterans and first responders.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I value pro bono work for a couple reasons. I know the legal process can be intimidating and helping those who need it is incredibly rewarding. Also, it’s a great learning experience—you get to work along side practicing attorneys who share a passion for making a difference.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I think I learned one of the most important lessons doing pro bono work—no matter how many cases you have, always remember that what you’re working on is likely your client’s only case. It’s not always about whether you win or lose, it’s often about showing your client that there is someone who cares and will fight with them.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Thinking about doing pro bono work? Do it! Do as much as you can, and try as many different types of pro bono as you can. Instill in yourself a culture of putting others first and you just might find that you too are benefiting from it.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I don’t know that I have a favorite success story. But I did get to draft reciprocal wills for a military veteran and his spouse. I was able to meet with the clients at our monthly veterans clinic and I worked on their case all the way through the signing of their wills. I was even one of the signing witnesses. As a military veteran myself, it was an incredible feeling to know that they were taken care of!

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Ashley De La Garza

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Ashley De La Garza is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law and a native of San Antonio. She is the student coordinator for the Pro Bono Program, a student attorney for the Criminal Justice Clinic, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, vice president of the Women’s Law Association, and a staff writer for The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review for Race and Social Justice. After law school, De La Garza hopes to pursue a career in criminal defense as a public defender.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I am involved in a variety of pro bono opportunities. Since my first year in law school, I was involved with the ID Recovery program at my law school. Every Friday, we assist individuals experiencing homelessness to obtain their most important documents. I have also volunteered with wills clinics and interned with the Bexar County Public Defender’s Office and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I come from a low-income family and community. It was difficult seeing my family and community struggle to access our most basic resources. Pro bono allows me to give back and restore a sense of hope to individuals. Everyone deserves an opportunity for legal assistance. Pro bono work provides low-income individuals a chance to have someone advocate for them on important issues.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Pro bono has taught me the importance of and need for legal services. There are so many individuals in the community who are taken advantage of and have little to no resources to fight for their rights. Pro bono attorneys and law students provide access to legal services that these individuals would not normally be able to afford.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono can be your productive break from studying and classes. Law school is very challenging, and it can be easy to forget the main reason why you attended law school. Pro bono reminds you of your overall goal. It also allows you to take what you learn in class and apply it to real clients.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
It is a great feeling when you assist someone and they are grateful no matter what the outcome is. I assisted in drafting a record sealing motion for an individual who was trying to gain access to housing but struggled because of their criminal record. Hearing their story I realized how far this individual had come and how much they longed to move on from their past. This record sealing motion was simple to draft and yet provided this person a start at a new life. We were able to get the record sealing motion granted and our client was beyond grateful. Something so small will have long-lasting results for this individual.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Ashley Rich

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Ashley Rich is a 3L at SMU Dedman School of Law and is a native of Dallas. She is a member of the mock trial team, SMU Board of Advocates, Association for Public Interest Law, Criminal Law Society, SMU Student Bar Association, and is a 1L mentor. Rich plans on practicing criminal law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My pro bono work has been in immigration law and the criminal justice system, and I have been involved in pro bono since my first year of law school.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I believe that we all have a responsibility to use our abilities to help those around us. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to study law and feel that we all should give back.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Through doing pro bono I have learned a variety of legal skills and gained invaluable experience working with many different people on limited resources. I have also been able to meet many amazing and hardworking attorneys who have served as mentors and inspirations to me.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Put yourself out there and go for it! Pro bono work has given me a greater sense of purpose during the times that it is easy to get bogged down by the law school workload. Additionally, the need for pro bono in your community is great. Do not feel like you are unable to do anything because you are a law student, there are plenty of opportunities for students to do good work and learn.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories
Doing pro bono work is often about celebrating the little victories. This is especially true in immigration because it is a long and complicated process. Victims of violent crime have additional hurdles, so receiving an employment authorization card for a client or having a temporary restraining order granted to protect a client from an abuser is a win.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Nina Orendain

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Nina Orendain is a member of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s investment management practice in Dallas. She advises investment fund clients in conducting private placements, with an emphasis on registration or exemption issues, including Blue Sky review. Orendain is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My current pro bono focus is Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, cases for Spanish-speaking clients. Most recently, I have worked on wills and related documents, special warranty deeds, and in the past, I handled a few divorces and name changes.

I also provide translation assistance to my Akin Gump colleagues who are representing Spanish-speaking clients in various immigration, asylum, and other pro bono matters. I have done pro bono work in one form or another since I began practicing law in Dallas in 1981.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It’s in the definition: “legal work donated especially for the public good.” I was raised in a family committed to social justice. My parents gave up their career aspirations to devote their lives (and our childhoods) to the Farmworkers’ Movement in California. Later, my parents remained committed to organizing farmworkers through the founding of the Texas Farm Workers Union in the Rio Grande Valley. At an early age, I saw how education and a profession such as law could be used to help people improve many aspects of their lives. I also lived a life appreciative of volunteer service, including those who supported the Farmworkers’ Movement and the historic grape boycott of the 1960s. Because of my parents’ commitment to community service, our family often relied on the kindness of strangers and volunteers for support. Through my childish view, I dreamt of becoming a “have” while committing to never forget what it was like to be a “have not.” I vowed that I would always help others in any way I could. I choose to use my legal and language skills to do that.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I learned that our legal system has a long way to go before becoming fair and accessible, i.e. equal to all, rather than favoring those who have more money. At the same time, I’ve learned that there are many Dallas attorneys and law firms committed to contributing to doing their part to making the legal system more accessible and equitable.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Please just do it. You will get so much more out of it than you give. There’s a personal satisfaction in gaining knowledge and expertise outside your usual practice area, especially when you see the impact it has on your clients. The DVAP mentor attorneys are always there to guide you. They are wonderfully responsive and knowledgeable and great at making you get to where you realize, yes, you can.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
Several years ago, I was part of a team of Akin Gump attorneys representing a client with a tragic and compelling case seeking U.S. citizenship through the U visa program. I was thrilled to see the matter through to her receiving her citizenship. Immigration matters are personally important to me also because my father did not obtain his citizenship until I was about 8 years old. In addition, while the matters I work on are not “dramatic” or complex, I appreciate their importance to my pro bono clients because many of them continue to call to say “hello” and send thank-you notes.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Jose Angel Gutierrez

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Jose Angel Gutierrez is a 3L at Texas Tech University School of Law and a native of Dumas. He is president of the Intellectual Property Student Association and treasurer of the Hispanic Law Student Association. Gutierrez plans on practicing patent and intellectual property law. He is also in his final year of a dual degree in engineering.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I do a variety of pro bono work. I participate in VITA, Texas Law Help online chat, and I preside over Lubbock County Teen Court. I am also on the Pro Bono Board at Texas Tech University School of Law so I participate in various pro bono projects and help to arrange and advertise the pro bono opportunities for students.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important for me because I grew up in a low-income household and I know how crucial legal aid, and any other type of aid, is to those that without legal aid would not have access to any sort of legal representation.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned so many things from my pro bono participation. Much of it has been substantive law; I have learned things from the trainings and legal research I have done. I have also found out that I have become more understanding, empathetic, and have developed client interaction skills.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
I would encourage anyone to participate in some pro bono projects. I firmly believe that participating in pro bono teaches you valuable skills and makes you a better attorney.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories was when I was preparing income tax returns for students and people that qualify by being under an income threshold. There was a family that came in that only spoke Spanish and I was the only volunteer that spoke Spanish. I will never forget how relieved and grateful the family was when I greeted them and prepared their returns. There are people whose day-to-day lives are improved by doing something as simple as giving up your Saturday morning a few weekends a year and I think that is pretty special.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Alicia M. Grant

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Alicia M. Grant is an associate of Norton Rose Fulbright in San Antonio. Her practice primarily focuses on product liability, mass tort, and labor and employment but also includes property tax disputes and bankruptcy. Grant is a graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I serve as a coordinator for a bankruptcy clinic that serves low-income individuals in Bexar County who need assistance with Chapter 7 cases. As the coordinator, I train law students, recruit local attorneys, and assist with administrative issues. I assumed this role after clerking for the Hon. Tony M. Davis, U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Western District of Texas, and seeing firsthand the difficulties that pro se debtors face trying to navigate the judicial system unassisted. I learned of similar programs in other Texas cities and knew that San Antonio needed one as well. I have been in this role since 2017.
In 2013, I began volunteering for variety of legal aid programs as a law student. Upon graduation, I continued to volunteer in various areas of the law—from representing low-income individuals with breach of contract disputes to assisting with drafting and executing wills in conjunction with the Bexar County Community Justice Program and Austin Volunteer Legal Services. My firm connected me with the NAACP where I assisted with legal research for appellate briefing.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It is important to me because access to judicial remedies should be available to everyone, not just those who have money or influence. The legal system can be intimidating to those who lack financial resources. As a first-generation lawyer, it still seems surreal that I am an attorney. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and made the commitment early on to use my degree to impact my community in a positive way. This commitment has shaped who I am and was a deciding factor when selecting employment offers because I knew I wanted to work at a firm that would support and share my commitment to pro bono work.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned how to be a better listener, negotiator, and problem solver. It has influenced my professional and personal life and helped me to be a person who analyzes things from different perspectives.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
I highly recommend dedicating some of your time to pro bono work. It is a rewarding experience for you as well as your client. If you are nervous about taking your first pro bono matter, most programs have mentors who can guide you through the process. If you are concerned about the time commitment, most programs also have different levels of involvement and various roles, so please reach out to your local legal aid organizations. Someone is waiting for you to volunteer. You are needed!

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
It was a simple contract dispute matter. A contractor had promised to deliver a deck to this family. Instead, the contractor took their money, breached the contract, and left them with a hazardous pile of materials. My colleagues and I took their case and represented them in a suit against the contractor. The overall process was not time consuming so I did not comprehend the gravity of the situation for this family until after we prevailed at court.
Once we won, the mother embraced us with tears in her eyes. She was so relieved and happy. The family thanked us profusely. It was then that we first learned the family had lived for almost a year in fear of this contractor because they believed the contract gave the contractor the right to access their backyard at any time. They had been threatened by the contractor who cited “laws” and exploited their lack of knowledge about the law. The mother had not slept well in over a month and the stress of the situation was affecting her health. They shared family photos and made sure we knew each family member that benefited from the win. The mother explained she felt responsible for the problems her family endured because of the contractor and was embarrassed to seek help. Thankfully, the daughter intervened and contacted legal aid, which is how we got involved.
As a result, I learned to ask open-ended questions so I can better advocate and advise my clients. I learned to avoid assumptions like the client knew they could tell the contractor to leave their property. I learned that just a few hours of my time could impact a whole family. I was reminded that we can provide solutions for those who desperately need it. I am honored that we were able to help them and look forward to the promised pictures of family gatherings on a finished deck.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Secretary Hughs Visits Laredo, Tours World Trade International Bridge

"Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs yesterday visited Laredo, where she toured the World Trade International Bridge, which connects the United States and Mexico."
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Secretary Hughs Joins Economic Trade Mission To Mexico

"Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs this week joined an economic trade mission to Mexico led by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC). "
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Secretary Hughs Announces Collaboration With AWS Educate To Provide New Statewide Education-To-Workforce Opportunities

"Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs today announced, along with educational leaders and workforce development groups, a new collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to unlock job opportunities in cloud computing."
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Secretary Hughs Marks National Voter Registration Day, Urges All Eligible Texans To Register To Vote By October 7th

"Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs today invited all eligible Texans to celebrate and participate in National Voter Registration Day by ensuring they are registered to vote ahead of the October 7th voter registration deadline."
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Secretary Hughs Delivers Remarks At AEM Business Summit

"Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs today attended and delivered opening remarks at the 2019 Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM) Business Summit in Austin."
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